Lost and Found: Heat, Hikers, a Hound, and a Husband

Lost:  Heat

OK,  we can kiss summer goodbye. It seems like it happened overnight,   Sleeping outside has gone from comfortable to cold.   That second hurricane certainly hastened the change of seasons.  Although there was no direct hit, this part of the country experienced very strong wind and rain for 24 hours.

 My first night to encounter the sudden temperature change was in a shelter on top of Bald Mountain along the border of TN and NC.  Most fortunately for me, this shelter had two blue tarp curtains that could pull across the front and be secured together with a hook in the middle and rocks on the bottom.

Without that, I would’ve certainly had the casual wet, windblown look to my inch-long hair.  I was  extremely  grateful for this tarp, but it was hard to sleep with the sound  of the plastic violently flapping in the constant wind.  The next morning it was hard to force myself out of my cozy sleeping bag with the sound of rain beating on the tin roof.

But my reward that day was walking across another bald that was eerily beautiful in the fog/clouds.

Some kind of bird research and repopulation goes on here. I walked by a blind and nets.

That night, oddly calm and dry, was spent at a very nice hostel, Nature’s Inn,  where I was the only resident in the house.

It’s a good thing I was there, because the next day’s post-Panama City torrential rain and violent winds hit hard. The stream by the house that had been peacefully babbling the previous day was now a raging torrent.

I had an unplanned zero rest day and loved it. The massage chair got plenty of use, and a nap was involved.

Since the temperature had dropped so much and this hostel was far from any stores, I did some “shopping” in what’s called a hikers’ box (unwanted items left by hikers for hikers),  and found a pair of leggings and a sports shirt that would help keep me warm during future nights outdoors. They are not what I would normally have bought but hikers can’t be choosers.

I also found that I now needed to wear several layers and a windbreaker when hiking instead of my summer-weight shirt. My gloves and neck buff also came in handy.  I started sending Bill frequent texts, listing item after item to bring with him during our meet up at Hot Springs, NC.  My backpack is gradually getting heavier, but luckily, my legs are getting stronger.

 

Lost: Hikers

No,  rest assured that I was not the lost hiker. That would be very embarrassing, especially after the post I made on my blog a week ago.

Late one afternoon, I came across a forlorn-looking fellow setting up his stuff in a corner of a shelter, my planned destination.  It turns out he’s originally from Germany but is on a two-year assignment with BMW in South Carolina.  I was catching him at the end of his first (perhaps only?) week on the infamous Appalachian Trail.  He had brought along way too much gear = too heavy a pack.   His feet and knees were absolutely killing him after only five days out, and he hated every hill he came to. Welcome to the initiation into the world of the AT.

The biggest problem, however, was that he had hiked way too many miles during his first days ( a common rookie mistake, believe me, I know this from experience), and continued during that awful maelstrom that I had massaged and slept through.  All his gear was wet.  Worst of all, both his phones were waterlogged and nonoperative.

Offering the use of my phone, he was able to finally contact his concerned wife after two days of silence.  A hostel a few miles up the trail was also located,  where he could catch a ride back to his car and make a beeline for the warmth and dryness of home.  Despite all of this, you could sense that he was an optimistic guy and would have a very interesting story to tell his friends.

I crossed the path of two more lost souls, although they never knew of my presence.  Another backpacker that I passed one afternoon shared that he had encountered two guys who were looking quite perplexed at the shelter just a couple of miles ahead of me.  They had parked their car at an AT trailhead, ready for a multiple day outing, They headed south for five miles.  Unfortunately, they didn’t know it was south, because their destination was actually the opposite direction.

The AT can be very deceptive, because of the twists and turns it takes you through.  One day I hiked for well over an hour with the morning sun to my right, while I was hiking south, in AT vernacular.  Toward Springer Mt., GA, = south.  Toward Mount Katahdin, ME = north.  Despite what the compass says.

By the time I came to the shelter, these two hikers had hunkered down in the shelter and were soundly snoring… at 3 p.m.  Why not?  I guess their plans were changed for them.  Many a backpacker has earned the trail name of Wrong Way.

I continued on south to my solo night at a mountaintop campground.

Lost: a Hound

Ah, my favorite lost soul.  Here I was, just hiking along, minding my own business, and this beagle/whatever mix came running down the trail toward me.  Friendly, tail wagging, lovable, and sticking to me like glue.

Around her neck was a collar with her owner’s name and number.  A second collar had a receiver attached with a short, flexible antenna that hunting dogs wear, in order to be located when lost.  I could hear the barking of dogs coming from several different directions down the mountain, so I knew where she belonged, more or less.  But there was no way I could get her down there.  Thankful that I had switched from ATT to Verizon last year because of its better coverage on the AT (about 50 percent of the time it works), I called her owner and left a message.

There was no way I could lose this girl, so I just continued heading south, with my new hiking companion.  She heeled beautifully, and, when she ran ahead, she’d periodically stop and wait for me.

It was such a pleasure to be walking with a dog again.  I often miss our two beagle mixes, who were my buddies on the trails in France.  Part of this day’s trail had challenging boulders leading up to stunning views in all directions.   Dottie (as I later learned her name was) made this fun, rather than challenging.  She’d scramble up the boulders and look back and me, as if saying, “Well?  Come on up!”

We eventually arrived at our shelter for the night, where there were two other nice southbound (SOBO) backpackers, Bloodhound and Kayak.  We all shared the bits of food that we could spare. Note, however,  that a certain someone was tied up to a post  for a short while under the shelter. This someone continually jumped on the picnic table while the humans were trying to eat their dinner and that’s not part of the etiquette of how to share a shelter.

She gobbled down my extra pack of tuna in five seconds, tops.  We were finally able  to speak with the very relieved owner by phone, glad  to know that his American English coonhound was safe and sound.  It was arranged that the two guys would meet him at a trailhead about five miles away the next morning at 7:30, since they liked to start hiking before the sun came up.  We were all happy it would be resolved.

The night turned cold. Poor Dottie was shivering quite severely and just couldn’t settle down.  After pulling her onto my air mattress and under my sleeping quilt with me, she settled down and enjoyed her 75 percent of the space.  Her owner had shared that she had been a house dog before being trained to trap bears up in trees, and was very cuddly and lovable.  This was obvious.

Around 5:30, the three of them headed out in the morning’s darkness, by the light of their headlamps.  I had to tag along with them a short ways to get Dottie to go.  I then turned off my light and managed to find the shelter again.  After my yoga and breakfast, I was packing up my backpack and feeling nostalgic about “my” hunting dog.  Suddenly, guess who popped her head around the corner! Escapee!  Dottie  jumped happily all over me, as well as the magic pack that had held a tuna fish packet.

Well, at least we were closing in on getting her back to Boone McCrary, her owner.  Leaving another message for him, off we headed toward the south.  Every now and then, Dottie would run off down a side trail, and I’d think, “Well, this time I’ve lost her.”  But I decided to never chase her down.  Let her find me again, which she always did.

Eventually, we came down to a trailhead,  and there was Boone, waiting by his pickup truck, with his three other hunting dogs in crates.  He was a nice guy who obviously loved his dogs, which made me feel better about leaving her.  That poor baby was in need of water, food and a long rest, as Boone was well aware.

But she’ll always be my dog.  And I’ll always be the hiker she had treed.

Found:  A Husband

And here I am now, in Hot Spring, NC, for a 36-hour reunion with my dear hubby, after five weeks apart.  We have enjoyed exploring little Hot Springs,

as well as a nearby town, Marshall.

We have enjoyed two very delicious dinners out at the Iron Horse Restaurant.  I long for greens, veggies, steaks, eggs and bacon while on the trail, and have indulged in all of that here.  The local diner actually had gluten free bread on hand, so I had the unexpected pleasure of french toast this morning.  A rarity for me!

This afternoon we also took advantage of the well-known hot springs resort, with our own private hot tub for an hour, watching the river slide past us.  Very nice:  relaxing in warm water in the cool autumn air, with your love of your life.  Does it get any better?

Well, only about 3 1/2 weeks left in this year’s section of the AT.  Next ahead of me:  the Smokies, which has me a bit apprehensive.  This section involves very challenging terrain, the highest  elevation on the AT, colder sleeping, the requirement to sleep only in the shelters, and a greater chance of bear sightings/encounters.

But I also expect beautiful fall colors and the camaraderie of more hikers.  And I also wouldn’t mind seeing another bear or two, as long as they don’t get cold and take over Dottie’s place under my sleeping quilt.

And, because I’m not on Instagram, I leave you with assorted photos of the beauty that I have been privileged to experience this past week.

(Grave site  of a Union soldier who came home to see his Confederate cousin and was killed. They’re both buried here.)

 

Morning has broken like the first morning,

Blackbird has spoken like the first bird

Praise for the singing, praise for the morning.

Praise for them springing fresh from the world.

 

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning.

Born of the one light Eden saw play.

Praise with elation, praise every morning.

God’s recreation of the new day.

 

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Comments 31

  • Helen : Oct 17th

    Ruth
    What an amazing journey you are having- I absolutely love reading your stories and seeing your pictures!

    May the next week be as amazing with encounters with beauty of nature and people!

    Helen

    Reply
    • Ruth Morley : Oct 18th

      Helen, I’m so glad you enjoy my posts. I enjoy sharing my adventure with everyone and do appreciate the positive feedback.

      Reply
  • jane graham murphy : Oct 17th

    Ruth,
    Spectacular photos!!! Your experiences with other hikers, shelters and scenery are so well described. How fortunate to have a friendly dog as your companion for awhile!!!
    I love that you closed with lyrics to Morning has Broken”. Cat Stevens made that hymn popular in th early 70s and its one of my favorites. I can imagine you singing (or humming) as you hiked.
    Enjoy!

    Janie

    Reply
    • Ruth Morley : Oct 18th

      Jane, it’s rewarding for me that you are connecting with what I’m trying to express in my blog. And that song was the first thing that popped into my head when I saw those sunbeams streaming through the trees (other than, “Don’t stop! Just let me get my iPhone out!”)

      Reply
  • Lynn May : Oct 17th

    Your pictures are stunning and I loved reading your article. I have always wanted to hike the AT…I think at this point in my life I’m ready to work to make it a reality not just a dream. I’m about 10 years from retirement but don’t know if I can wait that long. The Trek has helped inspire me as well. I look forward to following your journey.

    Safe travels through the Smokies!!
    Lynn

    Reply
    • Ruth Morley : Oct 18th

      Lynn, how exciting that you’re starting to think seriously about hiking the AT. Remember, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I have met so many people experiencing it in such different ways. Last year, I had hoped to be a thru-hiker, but my beat up feet changed that plan. After grousing about it a bit, I eventually came to embrace being a LASHER (Long A** Section Hiker). I’m no longer desperately trying to get the whole thing done within a limited time. I have both the freedom of the trail and the freedom of flexibility.

      Continue to educate yourself with books and online info about hiking the AT. Attend free workshops at REI or elsewhere. Investigate the great gear out there, and try to choose items that are functional but also lightweight, to make these mountains a hair easier to climb. Go on practice multi day hikes in local state parks.

      Good luck!

      Reply
  • Dale : Oct 17th

    Hi Ruth!
    So great to hear about your progress. It has gotten cooler here, so I can imagine the temps there! Luckily, your hiking should warm you up a bit….Some of your terrain already looks challenging in this post. Love the pic of Dottie at the top of what looked like a wall of boulders to climb! My marathon in WV is just over 2 weeks away. We’ll have to get together after you get back and share stories :o)

    Hugs,
    Dale

    Reply
    • Ruth Morley : Oct 18th

      Hi Dale! Good luck in that marathon. I realized today that I’m now up to hiking a half marathon every day. Some hikers can do 20+ miles per day, but not this one!

      Yes, the terrain is challenging, pretty much every day. I just can’t capture that well in photos. It has been rewarding to find myself stronger on the steep uphills now, after 7 weeks out here, although no speed records are being set.

      It was rewarding to reach 800 miles done in all on the AT. In 3.5 weeks, it’ll be 1112! And next spring and summer, another 1000 or so. And I’m looking forward to it.

      Reply
  • Sandy : Oct 18th

    Hi Ruth,
    I love reading about your adventures on the AT. The story and photos of you and Dottie are precious! Do you wear a whistle on your person while hiking? I have one on all my packs, but this summer I found that I need to carry one on my person at all times, as well. I was in the Rocky Mountains on the Colorado Trail and went for a quick “restroom” trip before bed. Carrying no headlamp or whistle, I got turned around and was basically lost. It really frightened me, because it could have been a long, cold night. I stopped, calmed myself and walked a spoke-like pattern out from where I was until I found my campsite. Yelling did not help. My fellow backpackers could not hear me. I am an experience backpacker, but this experience really scared me into always having a whistle on my person when in the woods!
    Can’t wait to read about your Smokies’ experience!
    Sandy

    Reply
    • Ruth Morley : Oct 18th

      Sandy, you make an excellent point. I have a very good whistle on my pack, easy to reach. But I hadn’t tjoughtvif needingvitvin a scenaruo such as the one you unfortunately experienced. How frightening! I’m going to pick up another whistle and put it in the pocket of my hiking pants that I always wear.

      Reply
  • Slack Packhiker : Oct 20th

    Fabulous! You’re a cool lady anyway, but your care of Dottie takes you over the top. Thank you for being so kind to man, and beast.

    Reply
    • Ruth Morley : Oct 23rd

      That’s very kind of you to say, but I don’t see how anyone could have treated that sweet dog any differently. She was lost,, cold, hungry and lovable.

      Reply
  • Tom King : Oct 22nd

    Great seeing you once again Ruth at Max Patch! Your trials and tribulations are inspiring! Happy trails. Hope to meet again on the trails in town or AT. -Tom King (GQ)

    Reply
    • Ruth Morley : Oct 23rd

      Tom, it was such a crazy coincidence or karma or fate that we ended up on Max Patch at the same time! Good seeing you, after our one experience hiking together a year and a half ago at Versailles State Park. Thank you so much for your continued interest in my blog. Happy trails to you and your hiking buddies.

      Reply
  • Carrie Sparks : Oct 22nd

    Ruth, I loved reading this post and seeing what you are up to this week. Loved the pictures and the Dottie story. Jim is still moving several SOBOs. went over 900 yesterday. Wishing you safety, comfort and blessings. Carrie Sparks

    Reply
    • Ruth Morley : Oct 23rd

      You guys have helped over 900 backpackers this year? You’re good, caring people. Thank you on behalf of everyone. And pease say hi to the Methodist bunch of women I had lunch with—-a really fun group of ladies! And thank you, Carrie, for continuing to follow my journey. I’m still loving every day.

      Reply
  • andrea dold : Oct 22nd

    Hi Ruth,
    happy hello from the “German lady with the green deuter bag” – and the red warning flag tied fast to it!
    I have made it to Hot Springs without being shot at by the bear hunters;-)))

    Very proud to have accomplished my first personal goal without major incident, am enjoying some relaxing down time right now and indulge in the phenomenal blessings of modern life (hot shower/ heating/ laundry machines…..;-)))

    Wishing you all the best for the continuation of your journey! I will definitely follow your trip and keep encouraging you to give it all you got while still enjoying the beautiful moments in every day! Never forget smelling the flowers, feeling the earth, listening to the birds and appreciating all the little things that you encounter on the trail!

    Big hug your way!
    Andrea

    Reply
    • Sherry Weckenbrock : Oct 23rd

      Well here I am, exhausted again just reading of your fun, funny and inspiring adventures! As always, thanks for sharing so much with the rest of us! What a great role model you are in so many ways. Good luck and enjoy your next three weeks,

      Sherry

      Reply
      • Ruth Morley : Oct 23rd

        Sherry, thank you for still following my journey. The past 7+ weeks have felt like 3. I can’t believe this year’s trip will be ending in less than 3 weeks. I now have 900 miles on the AT in 2017-18, with 200 remaining in the south. I’m already eager for next year’s 1000 miles in the north. I guess you’ll have plenty of blog posts to read next year, too, if you don’t get tired of reading about trees, hills, shelters and other hikers. Hopefully more wildlife will be seen.

        Reply
    • Ruth Morley : Oct 23rd

      Andrea, now I know why I felt compelled to press on to stay in that particular shelter that night. It was to meet you. It was such a pleasure sharing thoughts with you that evening and the next morning. I only wish we had been traveling the same direction.

      Congratulations on reaching your goal and also not being shot by hunters. I’m so glad your half of my orange kerchief helped protect you. After I leave the protected boundaries of the Smokies, I’ll be using my half again.

      All the best to you! I truly enjoyed meeting you.

      Reply
  • Jodee : Oct 26th

    Ruth,

    Thanks for sharing your epic journey with us! I LOVE the stories and photos. I’m glad to know of all the safety precautions you have taken but still offer up a prayer for your safety every now and again 😊

    We have a shorter trail nearby called the Northville/Placid Trail that I used to see hikers from, stopping in at a local convenience store. Sadly, the store closed so I rarely see a hiker now. Maybe someday I’ll do that trail in chunks. You are definitely an inspiration! Jodee

    Reply
    • Ruth Morley : Oct 29th

      Jodee, I encourage you to get out and try a bit of the trail you mention. It doesn’t have to be a ridiculous distance like I’m doing. Just get out and “bathe in the forest.” It can be quite spiritual.

      Reply
  • Cynthia Smith : Oct 26th

    Love your stories!!! Good luck with next part. Did you absentee vote?

    Reply
    • Ruth Morley : Oct 29th

      In fact, I did, thanks to my husband’s reminder.

      Reply
  • Cheryl Albrecht : Oct 26th

    Dear Ruth,
    I am just catching up on your fantastic adventure! You continue to be such an inspiration!! You have many gifts – – and writing and photography are certainly among them – – can’t wait for the next installment from my #1 AT hiker!!
    All the best,
    Cheryl

    Reply
    • Ruth Morley : Oct 29th

      Welcome to my blog again, Cheryl. Thank you for your kind words. I have always enjoyed writing, and have also enjoyed seeing what my iPhone can do for photos. It actually captures things well, and a little editing never hurts.

      My next installment will be around Nov. 1 or 2. It was impossible to post while I was battling the Smokies.

      Reply
  • Sarah : Oct 26th

    Hi Ruth! We met at Pecks Corner shelter, and hearing about your travels hiking the GR5 made me think about planning a hiking trip in Europe for next year. I haven’t been back since spending a year at University in Lausanne, and am suddenly missing the gorgeous views and refuges. If you have any recommendations on guide books, or nice 100ish mile sections of the trail that you would recommend, I’d love to hear any advice! Thank you 🙂

    Reply
    • Ruth Morley : Oct 29th

      Hi, Sarah! So nice to hear from you, after having shared a shelter in the Smokies on a cold night.

      Ironically, the trek that I immediately thought of when you requested a suggestion involves mountains and some cold: the Tour du Mont Blanc. Although I haven’t done the complete circuit, the other the hike that I did, the GR5, shared part of the TMB’s route. It’s about 170 km and runs through France and Switzerland (I believe), going through seven mountain valleys The scenery is spectacular. You could get there by flying to Geneva and taking a bus to Chamonix, France, where you could connect with the route. Of note: you stay in refuges/hostels the whole way. Sometimes you’re allowed to camp on their grounds after 5 pm and still eat inside, but not always. Camping is difficult in the Alps.

      Wikipedia has a good description and list of references. A good guidebook company which I used on the GR5 is Cicerone. Check out their site at Cicerone.co.uk. In fact you may find other hikes that you like on their website because they cover a lot of ground.

      Two other ideas, briefly: do the first part of the GR5, from Saint Gingolf, Switzerland on Lake Geneva, to Chamonix. I think this would take about a week to 10 days, can’t recall. Stunning views, darling mountain towns, plenty of lodging (no camping). There’s an exciting, enticing website online by David May, I believe, sharing his experiences on the GR5. It was partly responsible for me doing that trek.

      Also, as you probably recall from your time in Lausanne, the Interlaken area has fantastic hiking and views up in the Lauterbrunnen valley. Surprisingly, the Rick Steves guidebook has some good hike ideas and great lodging suggestions, as a start.

      Enjoy your exploring, and please let me know if you decide on something. [email protected].

      Reply
    • Ruth Morley : Nov 1st

      Sarah, I just remembered something that might help you out. A guy made two very informative posts on Thetrek.co about the Tour du Mont Blanc, one pre-trip and one post-trip. His name is Aubri Drake, and I believe his posts can be found at thetrek.co/author/timex/

      Have fun dreaming, planning and doing.

      Reply
  • Carol : Nov 2nd

    Love this! Dottie knew you needed some snuggling. 🙂

    Reply
    • Ruth Morley : Nov 11th

      Even though the temperature made it a “three dog night,” I’ll take one dog anytime. Such a sweetheart!

      Reply

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